POSTED: Thursday, January 12, 2012 - 11:15pm
UPDATED: Thursday, January 12, 2012 - 11:46pm
Kayla Thornton scored 17 points and UTEP used a solid approach defensively on the way to downing Tulsa, 67-56, inside the Don Haskins Center Thursday evening.
The Miners (14-2, 3-0 C-USA)-winners of four straight- are off to the third 3-0 start to league play in program history while the Golden Hurricane (6-8, 1-2 C-USA) have now dropped consecutive contests.
UTEP, which led for the final 37:45 of the game, carried a nine-point advantage (34-25) into the locker room. TU managed to whittle the deficit to three (38-35) and was down by four (43-39) with 12:53 to play. The Miners countered with an 8-0 run, and Tulsa would get no closer than seven points down the stretch.
Points were at a premium for the visitors, who managed just six second-half field goals. Overall Tulsa checked in at 29.4 percent from the floor (15-of-51), concluding the contest with more free-throws made (23) and turnovers committed (20) than total field goals. Chanice Scott scored 14 while Tiffani Cousinard and Taleya Mayberry each had 10, but Mayberry had to attempt 18 field goals to do so.
Thornton’s energy overwhelmed TU, with five of her team-high eight rebounds coming at the offensive end. She finished 5-of-10 from the floor and made all seven of her tosses at the charity stripe. Anete Steinberga provided a boost off the bench with 10 points and five caroms.
Kim Smith registered eight points, her best effort since tallying 10 points in the season opener against Idaho State, while dishing out a career-high six assists. Kelli Willingham also pitched in eight points while Melisa Mendes contributed seven points.
UTEP connected on 39.3 percent from the floor while also doing a good job at the free-throw line by sinking 14-of-19 (73.7 percent). Unselfish play was evident, with 18 assists on 24 field-goals made. The Miners enjoyed an advantage of 28-22 in points in the paint and 25-13 edge from their reserves.
The two teams traded buckets early on before the Miners hit back-to-back threes to grab an 11-6 lead with 14:42 left in the first half. The edge eventually swelled to nine (16-7) but Tulsa would not go away easily.
It found a way to get the Orange and Blue cushion down to as few on three different occasions, but it could never pull even. The Miners took advantage of that fact, out-scoring TU 11-4 over the final five minutes of the period to grab the aforementioned nine-point lead at the half.
There were whistles galore at the onset of the second stanza, with Tulsa trying to get back into the game. Every time the Golden Hurricane made a run, though, the Miners had an answer. The final surge was an 8-0 push, with Steinberga and freshman Chrishauna Parker each tallying four points in the sequence.
UTEP will play three of the next four on the road, with the stretch starting with a match-up against Tulane inside historic Fogelman Arena at 1 p.m. MST on Sunday. The game will be broadcast locally in El Paso on 1150 AM.